Friday, August 19, 2011

Portrait of the Artist’s Studio

I took a satchel full of books to read on my vacation.  I only finished one while camping. Our second week in 2 resorts, I flipped through the pages of the others but had to come home to pay serious attention. Camping, I read Decorating with Color by April Cornell.  Just last night and today I have read and studied and made notes on Where Women Create; book of inspiration by Jo Packham and Jenny Doh.  It is this latter book I would like to comment on.

Where Women Create is a fascinating and beautiful look at the spaces women artists have as studios.  For some, their studio is just an understair closet.  For many, their work began with only a cupboard and the kitchen table but has grown to a spare bedroom, a top floor, a converted attic or basement, even a rented space.  With about 4 pages per artist, we don’t have too much exposure to their actual creations, but we do learn something about how they fit their art into the circumstances of their lives, what inspires them, what their favorite palette is to work from, and what materials they hunt and gather for their creations.  In a sense, the book is biographical and has a lot of human interest.  Many of these artists have creative and artistic parents and grandparents [which would be an interesting avenue to pursue: nature or nurture?  Are they genetically disposed to producing art, or did they lose the art fear factor from being around people who weren’t afraid to take a risk on income producing through their craft?]

My main frustration with this book is that it didn’t really show the creations of the artist.  Mostly it showed the rooms where they have boxes and bins and baskets and Mason jars full of buttons and laces and paint brushes and rubber stamps and Victorian jewelry and bits and bobs of treasures for their particular craft.  The photos looked like still lifes, beautifully rich and overflowing with their treasures.  At page 102 during the night I was pretty frustrated with the book (well, it was 4:37 AM) because it was calling most of the women “mixed media artists”  and telling what they used but not showing their actual product.  I suppose that was outside the scope of the book, but it was frustrating to me to see so many “mixed media” artists who like to go to flea markets for their inspiration and shopping for supplies.  Presumably they have different outcomes, which is what I would like to see as well as their working space.

Question:  How many collages can the market bear made up of vintage sheet music, buttons and Victorian hat pins? 

I guess I wanted someone to have a big empty space with a window and an easel who said “I’m a painter, pure and simple.”  A can of brushes, a box of paints. 

I guess the joy of the book is the beauty of their work spaces as well as the tidbits we glean about the artist’s obstacles which she overcame in order to follow her dream.  One helpful item is that a website was given for each artist and another for her blog site so I can learn more about what they actually do.

Two quotes which caught my attention:

     “When I feel uninspired, I know I need to start writing my morning pages and get into the process of listening…largely to my inner voice.”   Janice Lowry  (I liked this because she is referencing Julia Cameron’s recommendation in The Artist’s Way which I am also reading)

     “For Jenny, art is about doing. ‘It’s not about envying, wishing, grumbling, complaining, criticizing, regretting, bemoaning, or any of the many blocks that become erected by negativity and passivity,’ she says. “I don’t like excuses that waste time pointing to blocks or walls that get in the way of life.  We all have access to the same hours in a day.  I choose to use those hours to make a life that I love.”                      Jenny Doh


Gilly said...

I think I'd have been frustrated with not seeing the actual creations of the artists - even just one per artist wouldn't have taken up much room! I wonder if artists nowadays actually do "just" paint? Seems there is a lot of collages/part collages/unusual items used in unusual ways that pass for art.

I'm sure the artist is expressing him or herself, and maybe that is all that matters, but it also needs to engage with the beholder. Otherwise we wouldn't have heard of the artist, they would be painting/collaging etc. all by themselves in their little cupboard!

But most artists hold some sort of exhibition even if its only to their family, so presumably we are expected to react in some way.

I know many artists whose work I can gaze at for ages, which really resonates with me, and other work which leaves me stone cold. though it probably resonates with someone else quite different from me!

I tried being an artist, painting, drawing, but it wasn't "me". I like photography, and above all, writing. But I don't hold exhibitions, though I do read some of my work at our Creative Writiers Group.

Laura Ingalls Gunn said...

I have purchased a few copies of the magazine. I think they assume that you already are familiar with the artist. So bah humbug to those of us who don't. I agree that the emphasis is on the "Where" women create versus the "What". I think the "What" shows up more in the Somerset publications. :)